China’s foreign minister, Yang Jiechi, gave a lengthy interview to the international press on the sidelines of the Chinese legislature’s annual meeting. Here are the highlights as Via Meadia‘s sees it:
- China continues to have a low-key response to Washington’s “pivot to Asia.” There have been no threats from Beijing, and to our knowledge no important official has condemned Washington’s new policy or threatened American interests in the Pacific. Instead, as Jiechi says, “China and the U.S. have more converging interests in the Asia-Pacific region than anywhere else in the world. . . . We hope to see and welcome a constructive role by the U.S. in this region, and at the same time we hope that the U.S. side will respect China’s interests and concerns.”
- This low key response is bolstered by an outlook focused on the long term. There have been no reactionary, knee-jerk confrontations emanating from China. As Jiechi says, “The two sides should view bilateral ties from a long-term strategic perspective.”
- Jiechi did, however, emphasize Beijing’s red lines: Tibet and Taiwan. Washington must “properly handle Taiwan- and Tibet-related issues that concern China’s core interests.”
- In the short term, there are disagreements over Syria and Iran. Despite this, there are no efforts on the part of Chinese officials to sharpen or polemicize these issues. Washington and Beijing are in “close communication” over Middle East affairs, Jeichi said.
This is all very much in line with the Deng Xiaoping school of thought: China should exercise strategic patience and rise peacefully, safeguarding its vital interests but provoking no contests. Other Chinese leaders and factions disagree with Jiechi, including some in People’s Liberation Army. But this is a calm approach to new U.S. activism. Washington should respond with the kind of strategic dialog he seeks.